It was time to say goodbye at this week’s meeting of the Board of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC). 

Board chair Nonie Lesaux and Massachusetts’ Secretary of Education Jim Peyser are both stepping down.

To acknowledge their contribution Amy O’Leary, Strategies for Childrens’ executive director, spoke at the meeting and later reflected further on the service of Lesaux and Peyser, especially as EEC and its board have navigated the historic challenges of the pandemic. 

Amy appears at the 13:09 timemark in the video posted above. Her full statement is posted here. And here are some excerpts of her comments and additional thoughts: 

“To say that the decisions made by leaders in the Baker-Polito administration and the Massachusetts legislature over the last three years saved lives may sound dramatic. But I believe it is true.

“From setting up emergency childcare in a matter of days, to supporting COVID testing for children, families and staff, to listening to the field when drafting responsive new policies to ensure safety and health, to funding programs to stay open and support parents’ choices about when to send their child back to a program to the creation and continued funding for the C3 grants. Just keeping the day-to-day operations of the Department running was an incredible achievement.”

Amy also praised “the incredible stories of the educators, program directors, family child care providers, school age staff, CEOs and community leaders who have shown up for children and families every single day.”

Nonie Lesaux, James Peyser, and Amy O’Leary

“And now, at this last meeting with Secretary Peyser and Chairwoman Lesaux, we want to publicly thank you for your incredible service.

“Secretary Peyser, you serve on all three of the boards for our education serving children from birth to college and you are the go-to advisor to Governor Baker on education – it is no small job. I don’t know many people who would have signed up for that job and you did and served over the last 8 years.”

“I know you have learned so much about early education and care, and I can’t wait to see how you will bring all this content expertise to your next role. Thank you also to your incredible team at the Executive Office of Education who have done tremendous work behind the scenes.

“Nonie, you were appointed Chair in 2015, but our story dates back to 2009 when Strategies for Children commissioned you to develop and write Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success.

“It was a time where we were working to change the conversation from 10th grade MCAS scores to 3rd grade and shifting our priority as a state to intervention as opposed to remediation. The report was the foundation for legislation, An Act Relative to Third Grade Reading Proficiency, filed by lead sponsors Senator Katherine Clark and Representative Marty Walz in 2010 and enacted in 2012.

“The legislation established the Early Literacy Expert Panel to advise the commonwealth’s education departments on statewide strategies to promote language and literacy development in children from birth to third grade.”

“Your leadership and insistence on equity has been critical to this field along with your way of pushing us to have a big, bold, achievable vision for children and families in Massachusetts.” 

“Secretary Peyser and Chair Lesaux, it was not easy to be a leader in a global pandemic.

“We are grateful that you accepted the challenge and showed empathy, compassion, understanding what was at stake and passion for making tough decisions and always offering support.

“We are grateful that you joined the 9:30 Call to share updates and hear from the field. 

“We are grateful for your leadership and commitment to young children, families and educators in the Commonwealth.

“Thank you.”